Construction underway on Chinatown housing project

Construction is underway on a new 40-unit affordable rental housing project in Honolulu’s Chinatown district — an adaptive reuse of the historic three-story Hocking Building at 2 N. King St. that will bring “critically needed” affordable apartment rentals to the neighborhood.

According to an announcement from The Hocking Building Affordable Housing Project, amenities planned for the building include a central courtyard, community meeting room, exercise facility, central tenant storage area, bike storage area, laundry room and computer lab with high-speed internet access. The building will also include sustainability features such as a photovoltaic system, solar water heating, Energy Star appliances, LED lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

“The project also preserves the historic character of the site, which comprises the three-story Hocking Building constructed in 1914 and a section formerly part of the Aseu Building constructed in 1886,” the announcement said.

A blessing for the project was held Oct. 11.

The Hocking Building project is being developed by Skyler Pacific LLC, Pacific Development Group through its affiliate Hawaii Pacific LLC and Waialae Avenue Partners LLC, in partnership with Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., the City and County of Honolulu, Hunt Capital Partners and First Hawaiian Bank.

According to the announcement, the estimated $31 million project is receiving financing in the form of a Rental Housing Revolving Fund loan and federal and state Low-Income Housing Tax Credits administered by HHFDC; federal historic tax credits; an Affordable Housing Loan from the City and County of Honolulu; and financing from First Hawaiian Bank. The housing tax credits are syndicated through Hunt Capital Partners, the announcement noted.

As a condition of government financing, rents will remain affordable for low-income households for at least 61 years, with units reserved for households earning no more than 30% to 50% of the area median income in Honolulu, the announcement said, adding that the 50% income limit currently is $45,850 for a single person, $52,400 for a couple and $65,500 for a family of four.

Based on the 2023 U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines, rents, including utilities, will range from $687 for a studio for those at the 30% AMI level to $1,473 for a two-bedroom for someone at the 50% AMI level, according to the announcement.

“We welcome this wonderfully designed project to Chinatown’s housing landscape,” Gov. Josh Green said in a statement. “We’re hopeful that other developers will follow suit and consider repurposing buildings from Honolulu’s existing inventory of properties into much needed housing units.”

“This is another huge step towards activating the Downtown-Chinatown area, and by helping to add critically-important affordable rental housing inventory in our urban core, we are following through on a promise to breathe life back into this community,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said in a statement. “These new housing units will not only provide a safe and welcoming place to call home, but also foster a stronger sense of community in one of the most ideal and historic areas on the island of Oahu.”

Skyler Pacific Partner Kevin Unemori said in a statement that critical affordable housing such as this wouldn’t be possible without financing and other support from the federal, state and city administrations, and partners from the private sector “who are all committed to meeting this urgent need.”

“Pacific Development Group is proud to work with Skyler Pacific in developing critically needed affordable housing for downtown Honolulu. Getting to this stage is a major step in accomplishing that goal,” Joe Michael, president of Pacific Development Group, said in a statement.

According to the announcement, The Institute for Human Services will provide a number of services, such as specialized case management, health and wellness and employment support, to residents at or below the 30% AMI level.

Construction is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2024.

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